Thursday, January 22, 2009
No more masterpieces please
The Royal Opera, Covent Garden is giving the UK premiere of Erich Korngold's Die tote Stadt on Tuesday January 27th. This is wonderful music that richly deserves this London staging. Die tote Stadt is certainly in a very different league to John Foulds' World Requiem. But I just hope that the opera doesn't fall victim to promotional overkill in the way that Foulds' minorpiece did. The Covent Garden website is billing the opera as a 'rediscovered masterpiece'. This theme has been breathlessly taken up by BBC Radio 3, who, coincidentally, has the broadcast rights. I'll overlook the 'rediscovered' being applied in 2009 to a work that has been in and out of the record catalogue and opera houses over the years. But do you remember the days when geniuses like Bach, Beethoven and Mozart wrote masterpieces, and there was also a lot of other good (and not so good) music? Good music is no longer enough for today's hyperbole hungry media. Masterpiece is now the lowest common denominator. Recently I heard a BBC Radio 3 presenter describe the Brahms German Requiem as a 'major masterpiece'. I hold my hands up as guilty of over-using the word 'masterpiece' in the past. But, from now on, I will try to avoid the word unless it is describing the work of a true genius. Otherwise let's enjoy the good music, including Korngold's ravishing opera. My header is a reworking of an image from my 2008 article, which gives the background to Die tote Stadt.
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